Beckett’s Vessels

Journal of Modern Literature

Just as Samuel Beckett describes the advent of a “no-man’s land” between the subject and “the world of objects” in his essay “Recent Irish Poetry,” his prose and plays often explore the gray area between the human and the non-human: objects that are almost human, humans that are almost objects. In most cases, where this type of thinking is present, we also find a vessel of some kind. While the bodies of Nagg and Nell might merely be hidden within Endgame’s ashcans, in Play the distinction is not so clear, for Beckett’s stage directions describe “faces so lost to age and aspect as to seem almost part of urns.” While Molloy conceives of himself as a “sealed jar [. . .] well preserved,” the Unnamable is actually contained within a jar, padded first with stone, then with sawdust. Shortly after Watt begins to question if Mr. Knott’s pot is, in fact, a pot, he also wonders if he himself is a container instead of a man…